Ramadan 2021 will come to an end this week, marked by the celebration of Eid al-Fitr but Muslims in the UK celebrating the end of their month-long fasting period still cannot mix indoors with other households because of current Covid regulations.
Around the world more than a one and a half billion Muslims have been observing Ramadan – the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, and the period of time people fast between dawn and sunset.
The fasting period puts focus on prayer, purification, and charitable acts, and its practice reminds Muslims of the suffering of the poor. Eid, which means ‘festival’ or ‘feast’, marks the end of Ramadan.
To celebrate, people who have observed Ramadan traditionally break their fast with a unique feast, spend time with family and friends, and pray.
Current restrictions state that communal worship or prayer can be attended by as many people as the place of worship can safely accommodate, with Covid measures and social distancing in place. This means that people from different households, or support bubbles, must not mix when participating in communal worship.
But with people only allowed to meet outdoors in groups of six, and meeting indoors prohibited until May 17, Eid al-Fitr, set to be celebrated on Thursday May 13, will, just like last year, be marked on a smaller scale.
Newcastle charity worker, Parul Uddin is one such person preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr on a smaller scale than usual. She said: “Eid celebrations will be very much the same for me as they were last year, but we were expecting it and we’re quite used to it now.”
Last year Ms Uddin hosted a socially distanced prayer in the garden of her home after Eid prayers in mosques were cancelled. It was the first Eid since she left home 21 years ago that Ms Uddin had spent without her mother. This year she is hoping for good weather so she can visit her mother in the garden.
Ms Uddin added: “One thing that has changed is men will be attending mosque for prayer, but they had to write their name down to attend and there will be prayers held throughout the morning to help with social distancing.”
Ms Uddin went on to explain that the men in her family would be attending the mosque for prayer and then she was looking forward to having a small celebration with her husband and two children at home.
General secretary of Newcastle’s Heaton Mosque and Islamic Centre, Mohammed Amin said: “It’s great that Eid prayers can take place this year, but it will be very different. We’re holding two prayers on that morning as we wouldn’t be able to accommodate everyone otherwise.”
At Heaton Mosque there will be two Jamaats for Eid al-Fitr this year; the first one starts at 8.00 am, the second at 9.00am. Officials have requested that everyone should come with their own prayer mat and stressed that face masks must be worn at times. No gatherings are permitted outside the mosque.
Similar safety arrangements are in place at Middlesbrough’s Central Masjid, to comply with current Covid restrictions. Here too, two Jamaat’s will take place, one at 8.30am and one at 9.30am.
Looking at the possibility of using alternative venues Mr Amin went on to say: “We did look at holding a prayer in Heaton Park, but the weather is too unpredictable at the moment and I’m not sure we would get permission from the council.”
The continued impact of covid restrictions has led to people being creative in their planning for Eid. Shopkeeper Tahir Ali from Jarrow said: “I bought a new outfit to wear for Eid even though I won’t be doing anything for it this year. I’m just going to be standing in the shop all day, but I wanted to cheer myself up.”
He added: “Normally people would be going to Bradford or Manchester to be with family, and I would travel down to Manchester with friends to meet our other friends and we’d all have a meal together. This year I’ll just be coming home and cooking my own food.”
Earlier this week the prime minister announced that from May 17, restrictions on seeing friends and family will be eased further with most outdoor mixing rules being lifted – the only legal restriction to remain in place for outdoor gatherings is a limit of 30 people.
People will be able to meet indoors once again, however, the rule of six or two households will remain in place. The government guidelines state that the advice on social distancing between friends and family will be reviewed “as soon as possible and by no later than Step 3” which could mean a return of hugging.
Commenting on the prime minister’s announcement Mr Ali said: “It’s sad that we’re missing out again. Boris [Johnson] let people celebrate Christmas, but we’re missing out on seeing family for a second year.”
The country seems to be making good progress in its fight against Covid 19 and has not yet missed a key date in the easing of lockdown restrictions which ministers say are driven by data.
The final step out of lockdown is scheduled for June 21st when the government hopes to be able to remove all legal limits on social contact.
Good news for everyone celebrating Eid al-Adha which starts on the evening of July 19th and ends on July 23rd.